GOP Senators unveil legislation seeking to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops

The COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act seeks to permit only honorable discharges for those refusing the vaccines.
GOP Elephant on in a rug in the lobby of the Republican Party's headquarters in Washington.

A group of Republican senators is seeking to bar the Defense Department from issuing dishonorable discharges to service members who do not comply with the military's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Sens. Roger Marshall of Kansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama announced their legislation in a press release.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act seeks to permit only honorable discharges for those who refuse the vaccines, precluding the other two discharge options — other-than-honorable and dishonorable.

According to The Hill, the bill comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's announcement last month that all active-duty service members would be fully vaccinated by the end of the year. Consequences for not complying with the vaccine mandate included potential dishonorable discharge.

Historically, U.S. service members who are dishonorably discharged give up certain rights and privileges, including access to the GI Bill for further education and veteran-specific home loans and medical benefits.

Marshall, who is a veteran, said the choice to get vaccinated should be between a person and their doctor. 

"There is no question about it: American heroes should not be treated as felons because of their personal medical choices," Marshall added. 

Currently, there is a similar bill in the House of Representatives that is being considered.